On Saturday, the Colorado offensive line racked up a large bill at Torchy’s Tacos, but for Kyle DeVan those outings are less about the food than they are about building camaraderie.
Hired in December to coach the Buffaloes’ offensive line, DeVan knows the importance of getting to know his players as young men during his first offseason with the group.
“Honestly, it’s been awesome,” he said earlier this month. “I’ve had individual meetings with all the players. I’ve had a meeting room with them. And we really didn’t talk about football (initially). We talked about life, and we talked about goals. I think that’s important.
“I don’t want to get up there and talk about how I’m going to teach a drive block. No, I want to get up there and say, ‘Hey, this is my family, this is who I am. Tell me about your family. Tell me about what you’re studying in school.’ … I want them to know that I’m invested in them as a person, not just a football player. Really excited to keep watching them develop.”
DeVan, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Thursday, spent last season as an offensive analyst for Big Ten champion Michigan. A former NFL player who started in Super Bowl XLIV for the Indianapolis Colts, he coached the offensive line at Arizona from 2019-20.
He’s now taking over a position group that went through a tough 2021 season, struggling during the Buffs’ 4-8 slate. The campaign included line coach Mitch Rodrigue being fired after seven games, with William Vlachos replacing him on an interim basis for the final five games.
CU lost two of its five starters — center Colby Pursell and left guard Kary Kutsch — to graduation and a pair of key backups (Chance Lytle and Kanan Ray) to the transfer portal.
Three starters — left tackle Jake Wiley, right guard Casey Roddick and right tackle Frank Fillip — and seven backups are back. The Buffs have also added five linemen this offseason.
DeVan said he isn’t too concerned about the 2021 results or depth chart, however. It’s about him and the players starting over and trusting each other.
“Everybody’s gonna start over with a clean slate,” he said. “The guys in my room have been through a lot with the two offensive line coaches this past season. I think trust was a big deal.
“There’s a good foundation, so I wanted to let those guys know I’m here to gain their trust, just like they’re currently here to gain my trust. I’ve seen that and I experienced it as a player, so I’m very understanding of the change coach (Karl) Dorrell made during the season. I think talking to them all, they’re all eager just to continue their process and that’s something I really appreciate. I know they’ve been through a lot. I’m understanding of that and want all those guys to understand that they’re going to get a fresh start.”
In coaching the Buffs’ line, DeVan will rely upon experiences he’s gained not only as a coach but as a player and even as a teacher.
DeVan started 38 games at Oregon State from 2004-07 and earned All-Pac-10 honors three times. He went undrafted in 2008 and had a couple of practice squad stints with Washington and the New York Jets, but then began working as a substitute teacher in his hometown of Vacaville, Calif.
He went back to football early in 2009 with the Boise Burn of the Arena Football League’s development league. About 10 months later, he was starting at guard for the Colts and protecting quarterback Peyton Manning.
“I didn’t have the easy way (as a player),” he said. “What it showed me is my passion for the game. And it showed me that, you know what, I’m going to do anything to be the best that I can be and follow my dreams that I’ve had since I was 8 years old.”
DeVan said that experience and the AFC championship ring he earned from that season are reminders that extra work and not cutting corners will pay off. Those are lessons he brings to his players and he’s looking forward to helping the Buffs’ linemen reach their potential.
“I want to go out there and experience it first (on the field) and see if maybe my coaching style, my teachings, my technique, are maybe more suitable to some of them that might not have got along with the previous group,” he said. “I’m excited for that and I think those kids are, too.
“All of them want to make Colorado the best it can be and they want to win games and I really appreciate that.”